Through the fuzzy intangible reeds of distant memory, shards of the experience remain, like the mesas and canyons of the Southwest, remnants of another time.
Sometimes the things I write leave readers questioning reality or fiction, akin to the old Memorex recording tape commercials wherein the marketed were left to ponder whether live or Memorex, an interesting posit given the taped nature of the commercial. This story falls under non-fiction.
Actual year and age fail me; somewhere around eight, which sets the year as 1963, in the summer before it all changed, if one accepts as I do a demarcation line of the death of JFK.
(Song choice because it reflects mainstream music in the summer of 63, by an lgbtq artist where stories are legend of keeping her ‘alternative sexuality’ out of the news.)
Children experience events from within the bubble of their view of the world, and as we age, filter it through our expending perspective. In 1963, within the sphere of this neighbourhood, my five years older sister carried sway no one messed with her. Contrast her standing with me, an introverted child in many ways, not at all physical, viewed as harmless.
What started the nonsense, I remember not. Friday evening sets the time, remembered due to the absence of parents, out on their weekly ritual of a laundromat and grocery shopping. Somewhere after their departure, older kids, somewhere around the ages of my sister, some younger but older than me, attacked our home.
Vegetables flew as they circled our home fort; one decrepit nincompoop whizzed on my tent, left discarded out by the bulkhead. His act served as the lasting call of the crazy half hour or so of their action, for the tent reeked of urine, necessitating disposal. I think back on him now, on the later, the persistent neighbourhood bully he who once forced me to the ground over a sewer, who made inane claims – one memorable one where karma winked at us and dumped on him – who one day would break his leg and at last be the vulnerable. Yes, we did.
He was the nephew of the police chief, cousin of the chief’s son, someone I liked, and who ultimately helped me a few times along the way. When he died at age 16 in 1969, when he rode in a car driven too fast with passengers imbibing too much alcohol, when I saw what shattered glass from the bottle between his legs did to him, projectiles what carved life out of him two months and half his weight later, I mourned.
Such memories came later, not of this early 60s night. We watched the attack unfold with some horror, until we grabbed a garden hose, hitched it to the kitchen faucet – in those days, faucet threads line the outside surface, not the inside – and hosed them all as they ran past our door station.
My parents arrived home in the aftermath, the kids who vandalised long since gone. What could they do, other than feel upset and set to cleaning up?
Kids do stupid things, unwitting things. Take someone who carries a need to elevate over others in order to cover his or her own insecurity, the expression of an idea, and peer pressure, and voila, a stew of stupidity boils. Today we see what peer pressure does, most visibly at the pubescent line of life or just before, where children toss around words they barely understand, picking on, intimidating, ostracising. Armed with the advances of technology, a child can find precious few places of refuge, and little reinforcement of worthiness, of the positives they carry or can find in life. In that little bubble, hope suctions out, leaving a vacuous universe of despair. Too often now, we see 11 and 12 year olds leave us because they see no way forward.
Forty-nine years ago or thereabouts, I stood in the sea of vulnerability. Somehow, I made it through, although the course of my life left others damaged right along with me. Still, I plough forward in search of positives, for others, for me. I’m not at all certain, if such media existed in 1963, I’d be here writing this today.
Technology precedes societal adjustment, at an ever-increasing speed. We need to be quicker, because we lose our children from the unforeseen.
Unedited, the raw flow of memory and feeling.